With this opinion the EESC welcomes the Commission's strong message on reinforcing the Single Market and the need for commitment from all Member States and citizens. The EESC calls for a Single Market that must be perceived as an opportunity to reassert European values, fundamental rights and duties to achieve progress and welfare for all Member States and citizens. Values like liberty, economic growth, democracy, peace, science and innovation, political stability, consumers and social rights must be present in citizens' mindset as a result of a process that started 60 years ago.
Opinions with Workers' Group members as rapporteur/co-rapporteur/rapporteur-general
The objective of the opinion, requested by the Romanian Presidency, is to explore which measures and initiatives should be taken at EU and national level in order to promote organised philanthropy and eliminate barriers within the internal market that are hindering the realisation of its full potential, so as to maximize its contribution to EU values, such as cohesion, social justice and European Policies, and to the competitiveness of the European economy.
The opinion is expected to feed into the Romanian presidency programme and into the political priorities for the new Commission.
According to Eurostat forecasts (2015), over the coming decades, Europe’s population will grow slowly from 507 million people in 2013 to 526 million in 2035. This will be accompanied by substantial ageing: the section of the population aged 65+ should increase from 18% to 28%. And by 2060 the 65+ age group will number 149 million.
The opinion, requested by the Romanian Presidency, aims to look at possible ways through which people can acquire solid knowledge about the European Union, its foundations, procedures and actions, as well as its positive achievements and the concrete benefits it offers. This type of education would contribute towards building citizens' ownership over the European decision-making process and ensure that their vision, needs and priorities are adequately reflected in the European agenda at all levels.
The EESC takes careful note of the initiative's definition of disinformation as verifiably false or misleading information that is a threat to democracy and does public harm. Spreading disinformation has become a part of a hybrid war with a clear political aim. However, it also emphasises that, in addition to false information, highly selective information, defamation, scare-mongering and inciting hatred attack citizens' fundamental rights (freedoms) and minority rights.
Multiple actions from all stakeholders are needed to provide quality information and raise awareness. To this end, the EESC welcomes the initiative for coordinated action to protect the EU, its institutions and its citizens against disinformation. The EESC emphasises the urgency of such measures but is also concerned, however, that the impact of this action plan might be limited given that the May 2019 European elections are not far off.
A European standardisation system that functions well contributes to overall economic growth, supports innovation and global competitiveness of the European industry. It also helps to ensure that the levels of safety, health and consumer and environmental protection set out in Union legislation are met in practice. It also facilitates market access while contributing to a continuous deepening of the Single Market and providing the necessary legal certainty.
The EESC supports the Commission's steps to ensure basic international HVG freight transport connectivity on a temporary basis between the Union and the United Kingdom.
The EESC welcomes the fact that the proposal for a regulation under examination grants UK road haulage operators the right, until 31/12/2019, to move freely within Union territory, in compliance with the common EU rules on access to the international haulage market, and provided that Union carriers can also move freely on UK territory under fair, equal and non-discriminatory conditions of competition.
The EESC welcomes the reforms aimed at increasing high-quality investment and productivity growth, inclusiveness and institutional quality, and to ensure macro-financial stability and sound public finances. The EESC also welcomes the recognition of the need for investment focused on education and training and the need to strengthen the EU’s social dimension. However, it remains to be specified how these objectives are to be achieved. The EESC underlines that progress is very slow and proposals often rather modest in areas where new policies have been proposed, including fair taxation, the banking union and the functioning of the euro area. Moreover, the EESC recognises the importance of addressing climate change but measures so far adopted remain insufficient.
The EESC launched the idea of a Framework Directive on a European Minimum Income already in 2013 (SOC/482). As the principle of minimum income was integrated in the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR), it was again supported twice by the EESC (SOC/542 and SOC/564). Applying the open method of coordination (OMC) as the only mechanism to reduce poverty continues to be insufficient to achieve the target set in the Europe 2020 Strategy. Introducing a binding European framework for a decent minimum income in Europe, enabling minimum income schemes in the Member States to be made "decent" (adequate) is a key European response to the serious and persistent problem of poverty in Europe.
The own-initiative opinion aims to analyse the link between current food systems and diet-related diseases; identify policies, tools and instruments that are needed to foster healthier diets both on the supply and demand side, for example sustainable dietary guidelines, sustainable food labelling schemes, education modules in school curricula, information campaigns, specific agricultural schemes (such as the EU school food scheme), food product reformulation, etc.; highlight examples of good practices at national and local level - including civil society and business initiatives; contribute to the debate on the implementation of food-related SDGs and in the context of the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition; provide recommendations for future EU action.